Learning To Speak The Language In The Land Of Personal Finance

Photo by Jes

Photo by Jes

Language Barriers

I felt like a fish out of water.

A few years ago, I traveled to the nation of Israel on a missions trip.

Yes, there were signs in English. And, yes, there were English-speaking people in Israel. But still, there was enough Hebrew, Arabic, and other European languages being spoken there that I was grasping at what I was hearing, trying to figure out important details about my journey.

The tour hosts and guides gave us some basic Hebrew words and their meanings, but that only took our little missions team so far. We were going to be there for two weeks and then fly home, so probably not very many of us took the Hebrew language very seriously.

We struggled through those language barriers as best we could and then flew back to the States. We were safely back in our English-speaking comfort zone.

What if I made a permanent move to Israel, though? What then? I don’t think faking it through the Hebrew language would do me any good. I would struggle for a very long time. I would be reliant others to translate important information.

The best step I could take would be to learn the language so that there would be no barriers between me and the Israeli people. A wise decision on my part would be to take language classes, listen to audio recording lessons, use computer software, and hire a tutor. Then, I would be completely immersed in that culture. I would not only survive, but I would thrive through knowing the language.

Financial Barriers

Just like a foreign language, personal finance has a “language” all its own.

Many people feel there are way too many barriers to this particular language, so they resort to faking it through their financial journey. They want to stick their fingers in their ears and shout “La, la, la … I can’t hear you” so they don’t have to deal with the foreign land of personal finance.

But, the land of personal finance is not a speedy, two-week trip. Whether we like it or not, our financial lives are the journey of a lifetime. We can choose to win or lose. All it takes is making the choice to win, setting goals, getting help, and learning this language called personal finance.

But, in the end, the majority of us don’t follow this path. We won’t win with our finances.

Lifetime Language Learning

Instead of fighting the language of personal finances, we need to spend a little time and money to learn this language. We need to get in a Crown Financial Bible Study. We need to buy an FPU kit and go through Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University. We need to read books such as The Wealthy Barber, The Automatic Millionaire, Rich Dad, Poor Dad, and The Millionaire Mind.

We should know and understand software such as Quicken, and Excel. We should utilize online banking. We should take advantage of websites such as Mint.com. We should automate our finances as much as possible. We should seek out the advice and knowledge of financial professionals.

This is not a “one and done” kind of process, either. Learning the language of personal finance especially in today’s high-tech world needs to become a lifelong learning process. The tips and tricks of finance are constantly evolving. Yes, there are some basic, foundational principles that will never change, but there will be some other important high finance approaches that will change given shifts in the economy.

We all need to embrace the language of personal finance and make the choice to win with money.

Questions: Are you afraid to learn the language of personal finance? Why or why not? What steps are you taking now to stay current in your financial journey?






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Do You Know The Secret Formula For A Better Life?

Photo by  Coschda

Photo by Coschda

A Personal Discovery

I was pleasantly surprised.

I had discovered a secret formula for an amazing life. The more I engaged in this activity, the better I felt.

You see, a few years ago, I started developing some specific, personal habits in my life that were making look and feel better.

What exactly is this secret formula for a better life?

Exercise.

I know, I know. I’m sure you’re not overly surprised with this secret formula. It’s really not much of a “secret.”

We all have a head knowledge that exercise is supposed to be really, really good for us. The problem is that very few people take this knowledge and actually apply it. From my own personal experience, I have found that once you do apply this knowledge, though, the benefits of daily exercise are truly amazing. I can no longer imagine a life without regular exercise.

I made a complete paradigm shift on exercise after receiving five amazing benefits.

5 Surprising Benefits of Exercise

I believe the majority of people exercise to lose weight. That’s great. Keep on losing those pounds! But, I have also found that there are several other major benefits to daily exercise. These reasons keep me hooked and coming back for more.

  1. Increased energy level. This was the biggest benefit I have found once I got into the “groove” of daily exercise. I have a lot more energy to get stuff done. I have more energy from early morning all the way into the evening. This is the number one reason that keeps me going back to the gym every day. I want more energy to accomplish my dreams and goals.
  2. Enhanced mood. If you struggle with anxiety, irritability, stress, or depression, then regular exercise is a great prescription to boost your mood! I have found my life to be lived on a more “even keel” with exercise. Get off your emotional roller coaster with a little bit of exercise.
  3. Expanded mental focus. It is a well established fact that our mental capacity increases with exercise. We become more alert and focused on the tasks before us. In an age of digital distraction, we can all use a little more mental focus.
  4. Extended waking hours. The “weird” part of daily exercise is that you end up needing to sleep less. Why would this be? It almost seems like an oxymoron. You would think you would need to sleep more to allow your body to recover from all your exercise. But, once you are in a healthier state due to exercise, your bodily systems run more efficiently. They don’t need to work as hard, thus the need for a little less sleep. Then, if you need less sleep, you can accomplish even more!
  5. Renewed love life. Yeah, I don’t think I need to go into a lot of detail here, but daily exercise (for us married couples, of course) does help your love life. Try it, and see what I’m talking about!

Questions: How about you? Do you exercise? Why or why not? If you do exercise regularly, do you agree with my five benefits listed here? Am I missing any additional benefits that you have discovered?






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3 Ways To Run Your Personal Finances Like America’s Successful Companies

Photo by Sal Falko

Photo by Sal Falko

America’s Best And Brightest

I enjoy hearing success stories of America’s best companies.

In our current political climate which often demonizes hard work and smart business practices, I have an even greater appreciation for companies such as Coca-Cola, Apple, Google, Wal-Mart, and Berkshire Hathaway.

Even during the worst economy in decades, these companies have figured out ways to succeed. They have made intelligent financial decisions that have helped them prosper.

I wonder what would happen if we approached our personal finances like these successful companies?

What if we as individuals and families had the financial mindset, will, and tenacity to make it in a difficult economy just like these businesses? If we did, then I believe we would no longer be in a down economy!

There are some great personal finance lessons that we can all learn from these prosperous companies.

3 Ways To Run Your Finances Like Successful Companies

  1. Avoid Debt. Apple, Inc. used to be a great example of this. Apple was formerly a completely debt-free company with billions of dollars in savings. In 2013, though, they decided to go into debt for a number of different reasons which included boosting their stock price, paying out dividends to investors, and taking advantage of our current U.S. corporate tax law. The decision to go into debt was really more of a strategic tax move and not a necessity to stay afloat, financially. Long-lasting wealth is built on the avoidance of debt in any form. In our personal finances, we would be wise to follow the ways of Apple, Inc., pre-2013! Get out of debt as fast as you can and stay out forever!
  2. Pile Up Cash. In our current economic climate, more and more companies are playing it safe: Apple, GE, Yahoo, and Caterpillar, just to name a few. These companies all realize that “Cash is King,” especially in an era of uncertainty. We should have the same mindset in our personal finances. Be sure to have a “baby” emergency fund of at least $1,000 if you’re still paying off any debt. If you’re completely debt free, then you want to have at least three to six months worth of expenses in accessible, liquid cash.
  3. Focus On Revenue Streams: products, traffic, clients, sales, and money. The best U.S. companies out there today have a laser-like focus on bringing in more revenue. They realize that revenue is the life blood for their company’s survival. Click here to see the revenue strategies for three major tech companies. In the same way, we should have laser-like focus on additional streams of income for our families such as side jobs, side businesses, passive income, dividend producing investments, and real estate. I highly recommend a couple of books on this subject from Robert G. Allen: Multiple Streams of Income: How To Generate a Lifetime of Unlimited Wealth and Multiple Streams of Internet Income.

Questions: How about you? Are you running your personal finances like these successful companies? Are you avoiding debt, piling up cash, and focused on revenue streams? Why or why not?






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Featured Guest Post At XPastor.org: 7 Suggestions For Better Meetings

XPastor.orgI’m pleased to announce that I had a new guest post go live this week over at XPastor.org.

Post Title: Meetings Are Lame: 7 Suggestions On Making Them Better

Summary: In this post, I discuss the impact of poorly organized and executed meetings on any organization. I give 7 suggestions for making them better, such as:

  • Consider holding only afternoon meetings.
  • Create an agenda for each meeting.
  • Appoint a leader in charge of the meeting.
  • Announce a distraction free zone.
  • Start and end on time.
  • Create an action items list.
  • Delegate tasks within the meeting.

Read this and more over on my guest post at XPastor.org.

Thank you to Dr. David Fletcher and his team for utilizing my post!






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Do Rich People Stuff And File Your Taxes As Late As Possible

Photo by Ken Teegardin

Photo by Ken Teegardin

Tax Season Is Upon Us

It’s tax season. Yippie!

(That was a touch sarcasm if you didn’t catch the tone of my writing voice.)

I recently finished doing all my family’s tax forms. I don’t really enjoy doing my taxes, but who does? This is mainly because I’m either really close to receiving a small refund or owing a ton of money. You see, I have the awesome privilege and responsibility of paying quarterly estimated taxes due to my status as an ordained minister.

My income taxes are not deducted from my paycheck each month, and I like it this way.

(And now, I probably just painted a bullseye on myself for an IRS audit.)

What this means for me, though, is that I need to plan, budget and save accordingly, so that I can pay my federal and state quarterly estimated taxes on April 15, June 15, September 15, and January 15.

In paying my income taxes this way, I experience the financial “pain” of my taxes. Most people don’t experience this same pain due to tax withholding from each paycheck. Believe me, it’s a totally different experience. The government knows and understands this, too. They don’t want the majority of the population to feel this kind of tax pain.

For 2013, I messed up my tax calculations for a couple of different reasons. Now, I owe a substantial amount to Uncle Sam next week.

While I’m not thrilled with the thought of having to pay a substantial amount of money in addition to what I’ve already paid, I am okay with it.

And why in the world would I be okay with owing the government a bunch of money? Because I have a different tax season financial mindset than your average American.

Two Different Tax Season Mindsets

Poor and lower middle class families typically file early in the tax season.

Why do they file early? I believe this is due to the fact that poorer people tend to view tax season as an opportunity to “make money.” They have structured their withholding as such that they have been enrolled in a one-year forced money-saving program.

The funny thing, though, is that they have essentially loaned their money interest-free to the government for a whole year. They lost the opportunity of using that money for an entire year.

The poor usually have regular income from only one or two jobs. Their tax forms are relatively clean and simple. They can fill out the forms quickly and begin the process of getting their money back.

The sad reality is that the majority of Americans who receive refunds have no real strategic plan for this money once they get it back from the government. They tend to go spend it on stuff that they probably don’t even need, and then the cycle begins anew for another year.

On the other hand, wealthier individuals and families typically file as close to April 15 as possible.

So, why would rich people choose to file so close to the deadline? Probably due to the fact that they feel the pain more of paying taxes. Their tax forms are more complicated. They have a variety of income streams. They have investments. They own a small business. They have more of a producer mindset rather than a consumer one. They understand the value of every dollar they earn.

Rich people definitely experience the pain of paying taxes at a deeper level than poorer people.

And, I wonder what would happen if poorer families had to pay their taxes like wealthier families? My guess is that we would probably experience a tax revolution in this country!

Here are some thoughts on how we can all shift our financial mindsets during tax season.

5 Ways To Shift Our Tax Season Mindsets

  1. Consider tax strategy in your overall budget process. I know when I plan my monthly budget, I want the largest amount of monthly net income in order to leverage what I need leveraged in my family finances, such as debt reduction, savings, and investing.
  2. Give the government exactly what it deserves. No more and no less. Yes, we should pay our taxes. As Christians, we need to be obedient to the laws of the land. But, handing additional money over to the government for them to use interest free for a whole year is not wise stewardship.
  3. Structure tax withholding and payments for equilibrium. You don’t want to owe, but you also don’t want to receive a massive refund, either. Consider meeting with a tax advisor or financial planner to achieve this tax equilibrium.
  4. Start some type of small side business and see your taxes and tax forms become more complicated. If your business is even moderately successful, you will need to pay estimated quarterly taxes. You will now experience the pain associated with paying taxes at a new level.
  5. Create a wise financial plan for any refund money that you may receive. You might consider using the money for debt reduction, savings, or investing. Otherwise, that money is going to somehow wander into Wal-Mart and be gone forever!

Questions: What is your tax season financial mindset? Do you think more like the poor or the rich? Do you file your taxes early or as late as possible? Why or why not?






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Book Review | The Art of Possibility by Ben and Rosamund Zander

The Art of Possibility BookDiscovering A Book Through A TED Talk

The information within books has the potential power to completely and radically transform your life.

Over the last few years, I can count a handful of books that made a deep impression that has changed my thinking and ultimately my life in amazing, powerful ways.

The Art of Possibility by Benjamin and Rosamund Zander (note: this is a husband and wife duo) is my latest addition to this list of life-changing books.

I actually discovered Benjamin Zander through his amazing TED video (you have to watch this), visited his personal website, and then ordered his book through the Kindle store on Amazon. Money wisely spent!

Benjamin Zander’s biography reads:

Benjamin Zander is the conductor of The Boston Philharmonic Orchestra and a guest conductor around the world. With London’s famed Philharmonia Orchestra, he is recording the complete cycle of Mahler symphonies for Telarc, recordings which have been received with extraordinary critical acclaim and several awards. Their latest recording of Bruckner’s 5th Symphony was nominated for a 2010 Grammy, and has received critical acclaim both for the performance and Zander’s now famous full-length disc explaining the music for the lay listener. They recorded their next release, Mahler’s 2nd Symphony, in January 2012 and it is scheduled for release later this year.

In 1967, Mr. Zander joined the faculty at New England Conservatory, where he taught an interpretation class, conducted the Youth Philharmonic Orchestra, and conducted the conservatory orchestras. For the past 28 years, he was the Artistic Director of the joint program between New England Conservatory’s Preparatory School and The Walnut Hill School for the Performing Arts in Natick, Massachusetts.

Mr. Zander is one of the most sought after speakers in the world. He gave the opening Keynote address at the World Economic Forum in Davos, where on another occasion he was awarded the Crystal award for “outstanding contributions in the Arts and international relations. In 2002 he was awarded the “Caring Citizen of the Humanities” Award by the International Council for Caring Communities at the United Nations. In honor of his 70th birthday, and 44 years of teaching, he was recently awarded an Honorary Doctorate by the New England Conservatory.

His partner Rosamund Zander and he have collaborated on a best-selling book, “The Art of Possibility” which has been translated into fifteen languages.

Yes, this book has a lot to do with music, orchestras, and conducting.

But, it goes way beyond that. I view this book more as a roadmap to be a successful leader and to live out a life of transformation. Whether you’re a musician or not, you need to read this book. It will turn your life upside down, inside out. The ideas that Ben and Rosamund present here will cause you to rethink your approach to life and relationships.

[PLEASE NOTE: this is not a “Christian,” sanitized book. There is some adult language and themes here and there (especially under Chapter 6: Rule Number 6 and Chapter 7: The Way Things Are). I don’t support or condone the language or subject matter, but I do agree with the primary principles presented here. If you choose to read this book, you will need to keep this mind. You have been warned.]

My 6 Takeaways From The Book The Art Of Possibility

After reading The Art of Possibility, I came away with six actionable concepts that I have already started applying to my life. I’m seeing amazing things happen in my life as a result.

  1. It’s all invented (p. 12). The interpretations of the world vary from person to person, depending on our culture, environment, and upbringing. We all tend to become rigidly attached to certain ways of thinking and specific ways of viewing the world. The Zanders have concluded that “It’s all invented anyway, so we might as well invent a story or a framework that enhances our quality of life and the life of those around us.”
  2. Orient your life toward abundance (p. 21). It is very easy for any of us to slip into a poverty or scarcity mindset, thinking that we don’t have enough money or resources to accomplish what we would like. The Zanders encourage us with these words, “you are more likely to extend your business and have a fulfilled life if you have the attitude that there are always new customers out there waiting to be enrolled rather than that money, customers, and ideas are in short supply … resources are more likely to come to you in greater abundance when you are generous and inclusive and engage people in your passion for life. There aren’t any guarantees, of course. When you are oriented to abundance, you care less about being in control, and take more risks.”
  3. Radiate possibility to everyone around you (p. 65). When the people you lead are not everything you envision them to be, who do you blame? Do you blame them, or do you blame yourself? Ben Zander puts forth the question for all of us who are leading others, “Who am I being that they are not shining?” (p. 74). The only person we can truly blame is ourself. We are the leader who is radiating possibility to others. So how do we effectively radiate this universe of possibility? The Zanders believe that “Purpose, commitment, and vision are distinctions that radiate possibility” (p. 179).
  4. Give people an “A” (p. 26, 39). Too many times, we judge people with very little information. If we feel like they have done us wrong one too many times, we put these people on our “naughty” list. The Zanders challenge us to give the grade of an “A” to “anyone in any walk of life – to a waitress, to your employer, to your mother-in-law, to the members of the opposite team … When you give an A, you find yourself speaking to people not from a place of measuring how they stack up against your standards, but from a place of respect that gives them room to realize themselves … This A is not an expectation to live up to, but a possibility to live into.”
  5. Lead from the second chair (p. 41). There is a disease that infects many music ensembles. This problem is sometimes called “second fiddle-itis.” The problem occurs when people perceive their role in a group to be of little significance (second violins for example), mostly due to the fact that many people are duplicating the same part. This is not true of other key positions within an orchestra, such as the primary brass and woodwind roles. They act more as soloists. But, this in no way diminishes the role and importance of the “second part.” Ben Zander tells us the story of Robert Koff, the founding second violinst of the Julliard String Quartet: “I came away convinced that the real leader of the string quartet is the second violin. Not because Koff dominated the rest of us, but because in his part he had all the inner rhythms and harmonies, and he gave them such clarity and authority that we were all tremendously influenced by his playing. He was leading us from the ‘seconds.’”
  6. Rule Number 6: don’t take yourself so seriously! (p. 79-80). The practice of Rule Number 6 is to lighten up, which may lighten up those around us. We can utilize the power of humor to defuse tense and awkward situations. All of us take ourselves way too seriously at certain times and under specific circumstances. When you find yourself getting way too serious and stressed out, just remember Rule Number 6 and observe what happens!

Questions: Have you ever read The Art of Possibility? If so, what were your own takeaways from this amazing book?






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